POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION & ANXIETY: One of my greatest blessing and essentially a wake-up call! Something has gone terribly wrong! What is the matter with me? What is the cure? How do I treat it? How do I get rid of it?
Thirteen years ago my life changed in a blink of an eye. My life as I had viewed was fabulous and everything was going perfect until they rolled me out the operating room after a C-Section for the birth of my first child in back in 2005.
I was gone. My soul was gone. I was nowhere to be found. People asked me if I was suicidal. It was a very good question. To be honest, I didn’t even have enough energy to be suicidal, I wasn’t really even there.
My name is Brittany Johnson, and I suffered from severe debilitating postpartum depression. My recovery was horrific, the journey mind blowing and the blessings bounding. Still to this moment, I must work hard everyday to maintain my rejuvenated state of mind, body and soul. I can assure you that it is not always easy; but, it it is always worth it. It’s about discovering a new way of life, letting go of what isn’t necessary, bringing in the good and ultimately empowering my own wellness of mind, body and soul.
In this heartfelt documentary in loving memory of Emily Cook, Dancing Without You, a glimpse of my journey of postpartum depression was also explored (at ~18 minutes).
I can easily share this with you today, but it wasn’t easy before. Ashamed and embarrassed of the diagnosis; now, proud and thankful for the journey. Together we must stand, together we must educate, and together we must not allow any other women to suffer in silence. Postpartum depression is real and we must battle together with fierce determination!
Every woman experiences postpartum depression and anxiety in a different way. Some cases mild and some horrific. All experiences equally important and effecting the lives of the entire family and community. I have included some links below that describe postpartum depression/anxiety statistics, symptoms, treatments and resources. It is essential that each individual and family member take responsibility in seeking professional medical care to ensure accurate diagnosis, effective treatment and appropriate follow-up.
- Postpartum Support International Utah
- Postpartum Net
- Mayo Clinic – Postpartum Depression
- CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)
- NIH (National Institute of Mental Health) – Postpartum Depression Facts
- Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale
My focus is to share my experience and what worked for me. It was essential for me to first get help from qualified providers, then to continue my journey to discover and embrace other modalities that supported my healing and optimization of mind body and soul. Western medicine was crucial. Holistic medicine was also crucial. One can not stand alone. My platform stems from this concept.
I have spent the last thirteen years trying to come up with an answer to this world wide ongoing epidemic of postpartum depression/anxiety. Why was I given this experience? I didn’t understand. But what I now understand is that it was a gift and it was my unique gift.
I can not tell you how many times I have created and re-created this blog. How many times I have set out to develop a platform for moms to prevent and to cure postpartum depression and anxiety. Everyday that I go to work, as a neonatal nurse practitioner in the newborn intensive care, I see moms suffering. I see it in their eyes and I feel it in my soul. But, HOW CAN I HELP?? I can share my story, my experience and what I have learned. There is not one answer. The answer lies within each individual. It’s about shifting our perspective, learning new ways of thinking, optimizing medical treatment and ultimately continuously experiencing life in new and beautiful ways.
It takes work, patience, trust and time. It can be difficult, slow and excruciatingly painful. But, it has the power to permanently and positively empower and change lives. There is not one medication or one treatment, it is a multifactorial approach combining western and holistic medicine. One can not stand alone.
Now I would like to share with you a little bit more about my experience.
After the delivery of my daughter, I would see signs posted everywhere stating, “You are not alone. 1 in 8 mothers suffer from postpartum depression. You are not alone.” Well, I WAS ALONE, despite all my family support, and I was powerless with no control over my own life! It was terrible and it lasted for months on end. Everywhere I read on the internet they would discuss the symptoms I was having, the symptoms of PPD and Anxiety. Yep – that’s certainly me I would say, but what in the heck do I do to feel better again???? How was I supposed to help myself???? Or, more importantly at this time in my life how was my family and friends supposed to help ME as I couldn’t even help myself?!
I was a masters prepared neonatal nurse practitioner and I was supposed to know how to deal with this problem. I had learned everything about it in school. I worked with mothers every single day. This was my area of interest and my specialty, but essentially had NO idea how to help myself.
Months passed and things just kept getting worse. I had to stop working which ultimately made matters worse.
I would like to highlight some of MY symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety.
- I just didn’t feel myself- I felt like crap and became a person I didn’t even know who she was! I was moody, had fuzzy thinking, fatigue, shortness of breath, irritability, dynamic mood swings, memory loss, dry skin, hair loss and weight gain.
- Felt like I had a terrible hang-over always.
- Chronic generalized pain and everlasting debilitating migraine headache
- No energy – felt like I needed tooth picks to hold my eye lids open
- No ambition to help others.
- No desire for friendships or any other relationship.
- Inability to bond or contact with my daughter.
- Only desired unhealthy, junk foods – eating only 1-2 meals per day.
- Thinking I was hydrated, but was only drinking 2-3 glasses of water/day.
- In bed exhausted all the time, but actually only sleeping 4-6 hours due to worrying and anxiety. Ultimately inability to calm my mind, body and soul.
- People would say to exercise, but when I did I found myself completely even more exhausted. I had absolutely no reserve and nothing helped.
- I often was confused and put things in the wrong places.
- I had a very difficult time speaking and spiting out my thoughts in a clear and concise manner.
- I had a difficult time with my balance.
- Heart palpations
- Episodes or fainting, confusion and complete inability to talk.
- Seizure like physical symptoms.
- Loss of interest in all activities and people.
- Loss of all levels of intimacy.
- Inability to care for myself, would go days without showers.
- Difficult to carry out normal activities of life, everything was a huge project and I couldn’t get anything done!
- The laundry and dishes piled up.
- The house became a filthy mess.
- I flet frumpy and ugly.
- I had very little affect and little to no emotion, then would have abrupt levels of anxiety and anger.
- Every idea seemed like alphabet soup and I couldn’t connect ideas or thoughts.
- I was a huge burden to my friends, many wrote me off as rude, inconsiderate and not there for them.
We knew something was wrong with me but we were unable to fix the problem. I was the problem. So, my mom kept taking me back into the doctors. Over and over again she would say, “Something is wrong with my daughter- PLEASE HELP HER?!”
Following are a list of different providers I was seen by:
- Family Practice Physician
- Nurse Practitioner
- Multiple InstaCares
- Multiple ER visits
- Massage Therapist
- Weight Watchers
- Reiki Masters x3
I was treated for postpartum depression & anxiety with the following:
(*By all means, I am NOT suggesting that ANY of these treatments would be best for you, I am merely sharing my experience and what worked for me. Please consult your physician for discussion of what is best for you. Why I’m sharing this is that not all things worked for me and it was really important to make changes slowly under the direction of a qualified medical provider until I was able to feel myself again.)
- Topamax (for migraines, seizure, bipolar)
- Prozac (antidepressant)
- Keppra (seizure and epilepsy)
- Many different types of birth control to manage my hormones
- Clonazepam (anti-anxiety, anticonvulsant, muscle relaxant, sedative, hypnotic)
- Progesterone (cream and intramuscular injection)
- Synthroid (thyroid)
- Provigil (stimulant)
- Physical Therapy
- Saline bolus for hypovolemia – I realized I was living a life of chronic dehydration and this was making my blood pressure so low that I couldn’t think or feel normal.
- Weight Watchers – Taught me how to eat a proper, balanced diet to sustain adequate nutrition, hydration and optimal energy levels.
- Reiki, acupuncture, meditation & mindfulness, exercise & yoga and other life changing holistic modalities.
I had many diagnostic tests including:
- Brain MRI (x2)
- Brain MRA
- Neck MRA
- Neck Ultrasound
- EEG (electroencephalogram to measure electrical brain activity)
- Cardiac Echocardiogram (evaluate structure and function of my heart)
- Continuous EKG Telemetry (evaluate cardiac electrical activity)
Some of the possible diagnosis that I found in my records upon chart review were:
- Complicated Migraine
- Altered Neural State
- Electrolyte Imbalance
- Meniere’s Disease
- Brain Trauma
- Seizure Disorder
- Clinical Epilepsy
- Central Nervous System Vasculitis
- Heart Defect
- POTS Syndrome
- Autoimmune Disorder
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Orthostatic Hypotension
- Chronic Fatigue
- Near Syncope (fainting, passing out
With my final simplified diagnosis of:
- Postpartum Depression/ Anxiety
Currently the only mediation that I take is Synthroid. All medications seemed to have severed their purpose and were essential at the time for my healing. The medication that seemed to make the most profound effect was Synthroid and Bioidentical Progesterone.
Please remember that everybody is different and every person must evaluate the benefits and risks for all medications and treatments. The underlying imbalance for each person must be addressed individually with a qualified medical provider.
In summary, I can assure you that it wasn’t one thing that helped me through postpartum depression. It was a multitude of treatments, interventions and people who cared about me and helped me to help myself.
>> You see, I probably was out of balance before my baby was born and the hormonal changes made everything worse, essentially shifting my body into serious wacky nature!
I asked my family and friends to share what their perspective of my experience with postpartum depression and anxiety was. Here is what they had to say!
My mother said, “My daughter was rolled into her cesarean section to deliver her daughter. She came out a completely different person. I saw it immediately that something had drastically had changed in her. She was no longer my happy, fun-loving daughter but a depressed woman with a baby. I was scared. Over the next nine months, we were in and out of the emergency room, seeking medical help from anyone and everyone. She was told by several people to just ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ and get back to ‘normal.’ I knew that was not going to make it better. Finally with the help of a hormone nurse practitioner, she was able to start seeing the light again. She took control of her health in a way that she maintains to this very day. When she is lacking in hydration, good foods and proper exercise, her body immediately responds and she must adjust accordingly but, at least, she knows the symptoms and the cures. Today, my daughter is a healthy, happy wife and mother of two!”
My work colleague, who actually was the one who advocated for me to be seen by a Nurse Practitioner that specialized in bioidentical hormone therapy said, “What impressed me the most is that months had gone by and nothing was working. Because I (my colleague) was receiving supplemental hormones from a Nurse Practitioner, and knew that I could see a difference immediately, I thought that it was worth a shot to see if progesterone could help you. I knew that the placenta makes a crap load of it when we are pregnant and then suddenly it was gone. Before that I thought the doctors would figure out something. I didn’t think of it right away either. But as time went by with no results and them treating you for petty mall seizures or whatever, I got really upset and felt like I had to do something and pay for it myself as need be. You know the rest.” Yes, it was because she reached out to me to offer another modality to help me heal that my life was changed forever. I ended up taking progesterone for several months and was ultimately able to completely wean off of it. The progesterone seemed to give me the physical stability that I needed to feel well enough to heal. It was the combination of everything that really ended up working for me. And yes, at this time, I didn’t have enough money to pay for the medication. And yes, it was a collaboration between my colleague and my nurse practitioner that these services were paid for for me. I told my colleague and nurse practitioner that I will forever be thankful for their kindness and will someday give back as they have given to me. My nurse practitioner informed me that she had experienced the same things as I did and nothing helped her. She ended up having to go to another country at this particular time in her life to get progesterone as it was not available in the United States. She reminded me that just like in the NICU when we run a code on a NICU baby – it is a crisis. Well, postpartum depression is a crisis and immediate attention must be taken! I believe that progesterone with the purpose of treating postpartum depression would be a very important and possibly valuable clinical study. For me, I had to evaluate the benefits and risks with my medical provider to determine that it was worth utilizing, for me. But more important, I had to also change my life, my mind and my body. I had to learn to think differently, exercise more, have less and experience more!
10 Steps to Jump Start Your Postpartum Depression and Anxiety Recovery:
- Recognizing that you just don’t feel yourself.
- YOU DON’T HAVE TO have the diagnosis of postpartum depression of anxiety to learn how to shift your well-being. Sometimes all it takes is to just not feel right.
- Clearly identify that YOU DO NOT FEEL RIGHT and that you are willing to do the right thing to feel like yourself again.
- Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale
- Get support.
- Talk with someone you trust and respect to share how you are feeling. I was afraid to share how I felt. I was afraid I was going to loose my job. I was afraid. Find someone you trust, it just helps to process your feelings.
- Consult with your medical provider.
- Collaborate to ensure accurate diagnosis, effective treatment and appropriate follow-up.
- *Seek medical treatment immediately if you feel as though you are going to harm yourself or others. *STOP, THINK and GET SUPPORT NOW!
- Hydration, Hydration, Hydration.
- Essential. At least 8-12 glasses of water per day! Your urine should be very pale, clear, yellow. If it is brown or dark yellow your are really behind. Guzzle, Guzzle, Guzzle! Find ways to enjoy water!
- Mayo Clinic: How Much Water Should You Drink Everyday?
- Fabulous Foods.
- Increase good foods.
- Ask yourself the question when you put food in your mouth, “Is the food a GOOD FUEL or a BAD FUEL?” Shift toward the GOOD FUEL.
- 5 Food Groups, get them into your diet everyday.
- Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Protein and Dairy
- USDA: Back to Basics All About MyPlate Food Groups
- Sleep. Sleep. Sleep.
- Keep track of your hours of quality sleep. You may find you are terribly behind. Sometimes you have to let go of other obligations to just get the rest you need. If you don’t sleep, you can’t cope with life. When it’s time to sleep, completely surrender and allow yourself to sleep deeply and soundly. You will need at least 6-10 hours per 24 hours.
- National Sleep Foundation: Sleep Duration Recommendations
- Shower daily. Seems so simple but sometimes it’s not!
- Fancy Up. Add some lipstick, some jewelry, or something that makes you feel just a little fancier. For me, I put on my lipstick… it’s just that simple.
- Fifteen minutes of movement everyday.
- If possible try to go outside to experience sunshine and nature
- Be Gentle with yourself.
- Love yourself exactly as you are at this precise moment in time.
- Give yourself what you need.
- One of my favorite quotes is : “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to your, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” -Max Ehrmann
- Snatan Kaur: Earth Prayer
- Mind. Body. Soul.
- Find your place of peace, your place of calm and you place of love. Hold this space always.
- Be open to modalities that will enlighten you. If you are open, if you ask, if you seek, they will arise.
- Discover and express your authentic self.
- In order to care for others, we must first give ourselves permission to care for ourselves– completely, every single day of our lives. A happy mom = A happy family.
What I hope to accomplish is to establish a foundation for resources, support and encouragement before and after the birth a baby. Ultimately, we need to learn to live life differently in a more balanced and holistic manner. It’s about learning from each other about ideas that work, ideas that can help us empower our own lives. We can do everything together, one day, one person, one life and one victory at a time!
Please share your story, your words, your inspiration in comments below! We need you! We need each other!
With very much love and light, I hope you enjoy my favorite song that got me through many days! Katy Perry: Firework
May you discover and embrace your true authentic self. May you find peace and love always. May your bright, pure light shine on forever!
Namesté to all as we empower and awaken our own Zenesté!
It was through my journey of postpartum depression that the concept of Zenesté was founded. It was because others helped me to help myself and ultimately me helping myself that my life and the way I experienced the world was transformed. Essentially, this concept is multifactorial and multidimensional. It is about empowering our own lives through interactions with others and experiences of life. By experiencing our own life as more, we see the world as more. There is not an end. It expands and expands and cycles even more and even more. The more I see and experience myself, the more I see and experience more of the world. It is like a funnel, exponentially elevating and spreading outwardly. The more I give, the more I receive. The more the universe gives the more it receives and on and on. We are connected in ways we likely will never understand in this realm. We must trust the process and we must trust the flow. As we receive more we give more. As we give more we receive more. As we are more, the world is more! Zenesté is the journey of awakening and empowering our own life! As we are awakened and empowered, essential the world is awakened and empowered! This is exciting! Let’s do this together! Join me as we empower and awaken our own Zenesté!